Baby elephant nudgedThe concept of ‘nudge’ was first made popular by two American researchers Richard Thaler (economist) and Cass Sunstein (legal scholar) in the book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (2008). Nudge is a concept from behavioral science, behavioral economics, and political theory, which suggests that decision making and behavior of an individual or group can be influenced by positive reinforcement and indirect suggestion. It is different from other methods of eliciting compliance like, education, enforcement or legislature.

The principle of nudge increases the probability that a given person will make a certain choice, or will behave in a certain manner, by modifying the environment so that unconscious or automatic processes of cognition get triggered to elicit support for the desired result.

It is believed that there is often a gap between the intention and behavior of an individual, in other words both are not always in alignment, which is termed as value-action gap. And that people have a tendency to often take actions that probably are not favorable to them, despite being aware that such actions are not in their best interest. Thus, nudges are aimed at influencing such choices, but at the same time, the power to choose still remains with the individual. In this senses, nudges are quite helpful as humans don’t always think and take decisions in a logical manner and most of these decisions are often unconscious, without weighing the costs and benefits of these decisions and choices. So in an attempt to bring positive change in the behavior of individuals, tapping on these instinctive styles of thinking is required. This is what nudge does.

A lot of British and American politicians have been influenced by nudge. Numerous nudge units exist around the world at both national level (UK, Germany, Japan and others) and international level (e.g., World Bank, United Nations, and the European Commission). Nudge theory has application in various fields, like government, healthcare, and business.

Door-in-the-Face Technique

Door-in-the-Face technique is a sequential request strategy often used for eliciting compliance by making a very large initial request, which the recipient is sure to turn down, followed by a smaller request. In other words at the start a big request is made which a person is expected to decline. Then a smaller request is made which the person finds difficult to refuse because they think they shouldn’t say “NO” again. The theory is that the initial rejection puts the other person in the mood to be more agreeable. Door in the face is an analogy to a customer slamming a door in the face of a salesperson after an unreasonable offer.

The technique was introduced in the year 1975 by a US social psychologist Robert B Cialdini and several colleagues who performed a field experiment in which students were approached on campus and requested to volunteer to spend two hours a week, for two or more years, as unpaid counselors at a local juvenile detention center. No one agreed to this, but when they were then asked whether they would be willing on just one occasion to escort a group of juveniles from the detention center on a two-hour trip to the zoos, 50 per cent agreed, compared with 17 per cent in the control group who received only the second smaller request.